Mexico now registers the third-largest number of COVID-19 deaths after the U.S. and Brazil, but the actual numbers may be much higher. A friend in Oaxaca, for example, says the government there has reported seven times more flu deaths than in previous years, suggesting that many of these “flu” deaths are actually the virus.
In the U.S., we face moves to radically reduce police forces in such cities as Seattle, Oakland, Minneapolis and New York, even while murder rates are rising rapidly in Chicago, Albuquerque, Kansas City and other cities.
Mexico’s story is dramatically different. In the first five months of 2020, Mexican officials reported 15,016 homicides. In the U.S., a country two and a half times larger than Mexico, there were only 16,214 homicides in all of 2018. In other words, the murder rate per capita is roughly five times higher in Mexico.
The Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice has just reported that five of the world’s six most dangerous municipalities are in Mexico – Tijuana, Acapulco, Ciudad Victoria, Ciudad Juárez and Irapuato.
We seem to be deadlocked in terms of another relief package for unemployed workers, but in Mexico there has been no package at all. Even where there is work, the Mexican minimum wage is only about $6 a day.
What can be done?
The surge that began over a year ago was sparked largely by migrants seeking asylum. By stifling that legal process, the Trump administration has essentially pushed migrants to come across illegally, causing numbers to increase, as the Border Patrol officer indicated.
2. Border Control
Thanks to Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small from New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, there are positive solutions, such as HR 5273, which passed the House in February and would require the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a plan to scan all vehicles coming into the U.S. through our ports of entry. This is how most illegal drugs enter the U.S.
She has now introduced the Southwest Border Security Technology Act, which would analyze technology needs on the border to “prevent terrorists and instruments of terror” from entering the U.S.
Although penalties for owning guns are extremely severe in Mexico, its drug cartels are as highly armed, often with weapons from the U.S. At the Santa Teresa border crossing and others, our customs officials have the facilities to check cars and trucks heading into Mexico. Why not initiate random spot checks of vehicles there?
4. Criminal Prosecutions
The murder rate is so high in Mexico that there is no effective law enforcement. The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Mexico Alliance Partnership is an effort to change this by providing training programs for Mexican prosecutors. In July, it completed a webinar for 500 Mexican officials.
Mexico is by far New Mexico’s largest export market and Santa Teresa on the border is one of the bright spots in our economy. More important, our family and cultural ties with Mexico are staggering. Let’s look for ways to work with this neighbor and friend.
Morgan Smith of Santa Fe has been writing about and working with humanitarian groups on the border for the past decade.